Scooter Hobbs column: Iowa, LSU deliver Elite performance

Published 12:39 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2024

So I guess now we can we all agree that Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is the greatest women’s basketball player of all time, a phenom who along the way just happened to break the NCAA scoring record of Pete Maravich.

Forget the LSU school pride of seeing Maravich’s record fall during the regular season. That was the least of the LSU problems when dealing with Clark in postseason, in person, in maybe the most anticipated women’s game in history.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” LSU’s lightning-rod coach, Kim Mulkey, said after Clark poured in 41 points and seemed to assist on every other Iowa bucket in the Hawkeyes’ 94-87 victory Monday night in the Elite Eight. “How you supposed to guard her? You can’t.”

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You couldn’t even hope to contain her.

Once Clark established that she was silky smooth comfortable — and mostly accurate — firing up anything from this side of half court, LSU’s was in a whale of trouble.

It’s one thing to stretch out and guard 3-pointers — she had nine of them, many from Jupiter or thereabouts.

McNeese’s men, you’ll recall, ran into the same phenomena in their first-round exit against Gonzaga.

Not much you can do but watch and hope they quit falling.

Not on this night.

“Theres not a lot you can say about some of the threes she hit,” said LSU’s Hailey Van Lith, who seemed to have the unenviable task of guarding Clark most of the night.

Never mind the 12 assists.

With Caitlin missiles finding net from all over upstate New York, it’s a wonder the Tigers hung around until halftime — one of the most entertaining halves of basketball, men or women, you’re ever likely to see — and hung around enough during the second half to keep it interesting.

The women’s Final Four has a tough act to follow.

About the best thing you could say for LSU is that the Tigers were part of what will likely be remembered as a seminal moment in the history of the women’s game, one that at least lived up to enough hype and off-court sideshows to shame the men’s game.

The head-to-head between Clark and LSU’s resident diva, Angel Reese, wasn’t really a factor — different positions. But Reese certainly held her own with 17 points and 20 rebounds despite re-injuring a bum ankle.

But the attraction went beyond the game. There was so much more to this anticipated matchup.

Mulkey, who of course attracts attention even she’s not trying, came out of her ongoing, coast-to-coast battle with media giants fairly well unscathed.

The long-awaited Washington Post article about the LSU coach, which Mulkey, sight unseen, had threatened to sue over what she called a “sleazy reporter,” dropped over the weekend. It would take quite the sleazy lawyer to find something litigation-worthy in it. The piece basically accused her of being a classic hard-nosed Type-A personality prone to hold grudges.

On the other coast — Get me rewrite! — the Los Angeles Times first pulled a column that Mulkey called “sexist” and “awful” toward her players, before the paper edited out the offending passages to repost it online.

She even got an apology from the newspaper and the writer for the portrayal of the LSU women as “villains” and worse.

“A previous version of this commentary did not meet Times editorial standards,” the note with the reposted version read. “It has been edited to remove language that was inappropriate and offensive. We apologize to the LSU basketball program and to our readers.”

That’s journalistic lingo for: We screwed up, went too far trying to be cute and clever.

But it seems there’s always something newsworthy going with Mulkey’s program, with the next drama only a news conference away.

Monday night, in the midst of praising Clark, Mulkey was taken aback by accusations that her team was suddenly anti-USA because the Tigers were in their locker room for the national anthem while the Hawkeyes stood at attention on court.

That, she said, wasn’t a lapse in patriotism so much as a misunderstanding.

It’s LSU’s (and most SEC teams’) standard procedure for pregame to head in and let the fans handle the “Star Spangled Banner.”

“Honestly I don’t even know when the anthem was played,” Mulkey said. “We have a routine where the team comes off the court at the 12-minute mark and we do our pre-game stuff” in the locker room.”

But seemingly nothing Mulkey’s Tigers do goes unnoticed.

And that’s probably not a bad thing.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at